BY MARY BARBERIO
HALLOWEEN IS approaching, and so is
the fun-loving tradition of carving pumpkins. Whether you prefer your jack-o’-lanterns scary, silly, grotesque or fun, you
could probably use some tips for taking
your carving up a notch.
Choose. Avoid pumpkins with soft
spots or cuts, which lead to early decay.
Large and jumbo pumpkins give you
plenty of surface area to get creative.
How does a professional pumpkin
carver choose? Jon Neill ( jonneill.com),
known as the “Pumpkin Guru,” was a
member of the champion team on Food
Network’s Halloween Wars, season four.
He looks for pumpkins with long, green
stems and those that are heavy for their
size, as they provide a thicker surface for
his style of carving. Since he’s a fan of sci-fi
TV sho ws and films, he searches for pumpkins that might best fit sci-fi characters.
He fills sketchbooks with drawings for
possible designs and often draws his creations freehand.
For those who may be less artistic, the
internet features loads of carving stencils—from witches and goblins, to cats and
bats, to fairy-tale and cartoon characters.
Prep. Elizabeth Wahle, an educator at
the University of Illinois Extension,
advises waiting until the week before
Halloween to carve, because once you cut
into the pumpkin the decay process
begins. If you want to sanitize your pump-
kin, she says, prior to cutting, “dip it in a ;;
percent bleach solution [; part bleach to ;;
parts water]. This will kill any surface bac-
teria or fungus and will slow the onset of
fruit rot.” A spray bottle filled with the
solution can also be used on the cut sur-
faces once it’s carved.
Empty. For Costco member Deserae
Baker of Fort Wayne, Indiana, carving is a
family event and a teaching opportunity.
She’s been a carver for over ;; years and is
delighted to pass along her expertise to the
next generation. She cuts pumpkins’ lids
by using a long, thin-bladed knife (or the
serrated saw from a pumpkin carving kit),
angling toward the center so the lid won’t
fall in. The hole doesn’t have to be round;
jagged might be fun. Then she has the kids
scoop out the guts with a large spoon, discard the stringy parts and save the seeds
for roasting (see recipe). Option: Depend-
Choosing and crafting a pumpkin
FOR YOUR TABLE
Costco warehouses carry pumpkins during
the month of October.
} Choose a well-lit area for carving.
} Keep a vigilant eye on the kids.
} Don’t allow the kids to use knives; store them out of
the way (keeping bright tape on them may also help you
spot one in case it accidentally gets hidden by pumpkin
bits). Kids can use the serrated saws sold with pump-
kin carving kits. Never carve toward yourself.
} Use flameless candles only.
} Don’t force the knife if it gets stuck—this could
lead to serious injury. Wiggle and use a sawing
motion to retrieve.
Source: Deserae Baker and Jon Neill
ing on your design, you can cut the opening
in the back or bottom.
Carve. The Baker kids attach their sten-
cils and trace with a rotary poker from a
pumpkin-carving kit. You can also use
small pushpins or hand-draw designs with
a washable marker. Using the small ser-
rated carving kit saws, they start to carve in
the center of the pumpkin and work their
way out. Tip: If the saw gets stuck, carve out
smaller sections at a time until the bigger
chunk is achieved.
Neill leaves the inside intact and
sculpts on the outside. Using special tools,
he shaves down layers of the pumpkin
until he gets the planes and surfaces to
the right levels. For fine details, such as
around the eyes, he uses a fruit carving
knife. He says, “I let the shape of the
pumpkin dictate the expression or cre-
ation it will become. Also, it’s important to
keep the pumpkin hydrated [use a spray